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UK: Labour suspends MP Neil Coyle over racist comment allegations

Labour MP was accused of using racial slurs to journalist, and the allegations are 'pending investigation'
In a statement, Coyle apologised and said he would fully cooperate with the investigation.
In a statement, Coyle apologised and said he would fully cooperate with the investigation (AFP/File photo)

Labour MP Neil Coyle has had the party whip suspended after allegations that he made racist comments to a journalist in a House of Commons bar, according to a party spokesperson.

The MP has also been suspended from the membership of the Labour Party and the parliamentary Labour Party, according to the BBC.

It comes after a complaint by Henry Dyer, a political reporter for Business Insider, who alleged that Coyle referred to China as "Fu Manchu", and also comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer was accused of ignoring complaints that Coyle made antisemitic comments last year.

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"The Labour party expects the highest standards of behaviour from all our MPs and we take allegations of this sort very seriously. Accordingly, the chief whip has now suspended the Labour whip from Neil Coyle pending an investigation," a Labour spokesperson told the Guardian.

In a statement, Coyle, the MP for the south London seat of Bermondsey and Old Southwark since 2015, said: “I’m very sorry for my insensitive comments, have apologised to everyone involved and will be cooperating fully with the investigation.”

Dyer said on Thursday that during an encounter on 1 February, the two were discussing Barry Gardiner, a Labour MP who received funds from a suspected Chinese spy, when Coyle said Gardiner had been "paid by Fu Manchu" – a cartoon villain that draws on traditional Chinese stereotypes.

The reporter pushed back, saying the reference to a "Chinese trope" was not appropriate, noting he was of British-Chinese heritage. Dyer then said that the MP told him his heritage was apparent “from how you look like you've been giving renminbi [the Chinese currency] to Barry Gardiner”.

Dyer said that as he left the bar later, he waved goodbye to Coyle, "to which he responded by putting two fingers up at me".

Antisemitism complaints

Earlier this week, the website Skwawkbox reported that Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has been accused of ignoring complaints that Coyle made antisemitic remarks directed at members of the Jewish Labour Party (JVL), the main group of left-wing Jews in the party.

A Jewish professor at Oxford University and two Jewish lawyers, one of whom is a knight, submitted complaints to the Labour Party after Coyle had tweeted a call for all members of the JVL to be expelled because they are "outright communists".

"Mr Coyle’s diatribe against Jewish members of the party is outrageous hate speech by any standards," Professor Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford, said in one complaint.

"This is surely an open and shut case of racism which calls for the severest censure. If this is not a crystal-clear case of racist antisemitism, I don’t know what is."

A left-wing, pro-Palestinian Jewish group, JVL was founded in 2017 and has been a consistent supporter of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The group says it knows of 46 Jewish Labour members, two of whom have since died, who have faced or are facing disciplinary charges relating to allegations of antisemitism, according to the Guardian.

Meanwhile, the three complainants say that Starmer has completely ignored a request to look into the allegations of antisemitism against Coyle.

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